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Innovation and Inspiration: The Campaign for Kansas State University

Paul and Sharon Coley

Paul and Sharon Coley are giving to K-State to honor military families and the performing arts — both priorities the Coleys say they're passionate about.

Paul and Sharon Coley created the Coley Military Scholarship to honor military families and the Coley Performing Arts Excellence Fund to ensure the show goes on at McCain Auditorium.

In 1972, Paul Coley was en route from El Paso, Texas, to Missouri with his high school best friend when their car broke down in Council Grove, Kansas, down the road from Kansas State University. Instead of summer jobs at an Ozark bait shop, the boys worked that season in the Flint Hills until they saved enough money for car repairs and the return trip to Texas. Following his high school graduation the following spring, Paul packed his belongings and returned to the Flint Hills — inspired by the many opportunities youth had to work there. Soon, he met Sharon Woodley.

"Both of our fathers were in the military," Paul says. "Sharon's dad served during World War II, right out of high school and was unable to go to college after the war. After dropping out of high school to help his mother raise six brothers and two sisters, my dad served five years in the Army during WWII and then 23 years in the Air Force. The Coley Military Scholarship honors their service. We could not think of a better way to thank the men, women and spouses of our military than to establish a scholarship for them."

Paul, an electrical lineman, is semi-retired now. Sharon is a dental assistant and office manager. They've raised two of their own children and a foster daughter. All three of the Coley's children are college graduates and two are K-State alumni.

Motivated by their respect for sacrifices made by military families and their desire to ensure the shows at McCain continue, the Coleys included bequests for the Coley Military Scholarship and Coley Performing Arts Excellence Fund in their estate plan. This way, their fathers' stories and their own love for the performing arts will continue as part of K-State's story of excellence.

"We really enjoy McCain programming and thought this would be a great gift to the communities surrounding K-State so there will always be a McCain and world-class entertainment right at home," Paul says.

Want to know how you can advance K-State family for generations to come? Contact the Gift Planning team at 785-775-2000 or